Depth With God

Article by Dane Ortlund (original source here)

. . . all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Psalm 42:7

Every seasoned saint who walks deeply with God, I am coming to believe, has been through a very distinct experience.

I could call the experience ‘adversity’ or ‘suffering’ and that would be true but unhelpful. I have in mind something more specific, more comprehensive.

I have in mind the experience of God’s children when they walk through the deep valley of a single instance of adversity or suffering so great that it cannot be handled in the same way as the various disappointments and frustrations of life. This particular adversity passes a threshold that the garden variety trials do not reach.

An Over-the-Head Wave

I think of swimming in the ocean of Laguna Beach in southern California on family vacations years ago. Wading out into the water I would immediately feel the waves beginning to come against me. First my ankles, then my knees, and so on. As I continued, though, inevitably a wave would come that could not be outjumped. It washed over me. I’d get completely submerged and there was nothing I could do to avoid it. The wave would send me tumbling head over heel underwater. Total disorientation.

That total-submersion wave is what I have in mind. I’m not thinking of bad grades, failed dating relationships, rejected applications for school or jobs, a dear friend moving away, a fender bender, the flu. These are forms of adversity. But they are waves that hit us in the knees. We lose our balance, but quickly get it back. We keep walking, weathering the trial but essentially unchanged. We aren’t forced to change. Such trials wash into all of our lives with some regularity.

But those who live into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and are quietly walking with the Lord from a posture of fundamental trust have weathered something deeper. At some point in their lives a wave has washed over them that could not be outjumped. And somehow they survived emotionally. They softened rather than hardened.

Finally Believing What We Say We Believe

Someone who has become a Christian and truly believes what he or she confesses to believe comes to a point in life where they must suddenly, for the first time, bank all that they are on that professed belief. Their true trust must be proven.

It is not as though they didn’t believe before. They did, sincerely. But their belief had only to that point been tested by the gently lapping waist-high waves of adversity.

At that moment of life meltdown we are forced into one of two positions: either cynicism and coldness of heart, or true depth with God. A spouse betrays. A habitual sin, left unchecked, blows up in our face. We are publicly shamed in some way that will haunt us as long as we live. Identity theft empties all our accounts. Our good name is stolen. We hear words from the lips of a son or daughter that had only been the stuff of nightmares. A malignant, inoperable tumor. Abuse of a loved one, the kind of abuse that makes us physically nauseous to think about. Sustained, inexplicable depression. Profound disillusionment in some way. Life goes into meltdown.

A Universal Experience

When I consider the saints I know who exhale that depth of trust that makes them almost otherworldly, it seems like there has always been a time of weathering a wave of adversity that went over their head.

In light of what we find in Scripture, what else would we expect?

Abraham is told to slit the throat of his only son. Jacob wrestles with God and is crippled the rest of his life at just the moment when he needed God most, about to meet Esau. Moses kills a man and loses everything the world holds dear. David ruins his life through an afternoon’s indulgence. Job reaps the nightmare of all nightmares. Jeremiah, Hosea, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul–more of the same.

When that moment comes looking for us, sent by the hand of a gentle Father, we will either believe that what we said we believe has just been disproven, or we will believe that what we said we believe will sustain us. The two lines of professed-belief and heart-belief, to this point parallel, are suddenly forced either to overlap completely. We must bank on our creed, or let our hearts cool and harden. We cannot go on as before.

It’s the difference between saying you believe a parachute will float you safely to the ground and actually jumping out of the plane.

Let us not be simplistic or formulaic. Many such over-the-head waves may wash over us in life. Or we may experience a crushing trial in our 20s–then another in our 40s that makes the trial 20 years before seem only waist-high–and so on. God leads each of us in his own way. No two journeys are identical. But I remain struck at how often it seems to have been one defining, devastating blow when a senior saint reflects back on life.

The Tragedy of Shallowness

I know Christians in the latter half of life who are not deep people. They are dear people. But they are shallow.

If they will take off the mask and be truly honest, they will acknowledge that what they are after in life is a solid 401k, health, and being liked. Nothing wrong with any of these things. But these have seized their heart’s deepest loyalty. As a result they are not compelling men and women. Not magnetic. They are wispy, not solid. They are nice but frothy.

Could it be that at some point a wave came crashing over their head and they believed that their creed had just been disproven? That they concluded, “Well, I guess after all God was not as good as I thought he was.” Could it be that the very moment which they now look back on and view as the moment when God failed them was the Father inviting them into his deepest inner heart?

Might it be that the Lord stands as ready as ever to welcome them into depth, into a communion with him more sublime than they knew was possible, and that it is just on the other side of giving in and banking everything on him?

He Went through the Wave

Recognition of the strange ways of the Father should not drive us into a fearful, darting-eyes day-to-day existence. Recognition of his ways should simply sober us, encouraging us not to throw in the towel when the nightmare becomes reality.

He is in it. He loves us too much to let us remain the shallow, twaddling people we all are and will remain as long as the waves only reach our waist. Sometimes I hug my kids so hard they yell “Ouch!” The loving squeeze of the Father’s arms are painful, but it is the pain of a Father’s love. It is when pain sweeping us off our feet in total disorientation that God is loving us most.

How do we know? How do we really know?

Because he proved it. In flesh and blood, before our very eyes. His own dear Son joined us in the haunted misery of this broken world. The dark bottom of the valley is where Jesus lives. He dwells in the waves.

But more than that. He not only experienced what we experience, with us. He walked through the greatest nightmare himself, for us. The tidal wave of true separation from the Father washed over Another so that it need never wash over us.

And so we are assured, when life implodes, that we have never been safer. We are being invited further up and further in.

Don’t “Share Your Faith”

Article by Cameron Buettel (original source here)

Our postmodern culture gnashes its teeth at biblical evangelism. Their commitment to subjectivity and relativism cannot accommodate a religion that is exclusive, narrow, and declares non-negotiable truth. And that shouldn’t surprise us—Jesus told us to expect to be hated in the same way that He was (John 15:18).

Moreover, Scripture also warns against appeasing (James 4:4) or imbibing (Romans 12:2) the world’s values. But that’s easier said than done. We are called to separatism without monasticism—being in the world but not of the world. We can’t live our lives and engage our mission field without coming into contact with pagan culture.

For most of us it’s difficult to avoid marinating in the postmodern thinking of our friends, families, and colleagues. And we see signs of this even in the realm of evangelism.

The phrase “share your faith” is now deeply embedded in the evangelical vernacular. Most of us use it as a synonym for our evangelistic encounters, myself included. But those three words reek of postmodern subjectivity—a point not lost on John MacArthur:

It’s not your faith and you can’t share it. . . . That is a not-so-very subtle overture to the post-modern mentality that says my faith is my faith and I certainly would be happy to share it with you.

That’s not at all what we want to do. We want to explain the faith, the Christian faith, truth. And our greatest example for that is the Lord Jesus, who throughout His ministry presented the truth. . . . Jesus was relentlessly committed to the truth. He spoke the absolute truth into every situation. And either people accepted the truth, and rejected error, or they held tightly to their error and began to hate Jesus— because they saw what He was doing as an attack on them. And it was.

We don’t share it, we announce it. And it’s not your faith, it’s the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3 ESV). It is God’s gospel.

I rejoice that the Christian gospel rests on objective historical facts that transcend my own experiences or validation—God’s creation, man’s fall, and Christ’s redemption. I’ve watched in agony as Christians have vainly tried to duel with other religions and worldviews on the basis of personal experience. Those encounters rapidly degenerate into an endless subjective standoff. The experiential evangelist is powerless to refute someone’s experience with his own.

The truth of the biblical gospel crashes through all of those man-made barriers with God’s own written testimony. It doesn’t hinge on our personal skills or powers of persuasion. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Faith and Repentance by Sinclair Ferguson

Article: Faith and Repentance by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (original source here)

When the gospel is proclaimed, it seems at first sight that two different, even alternative, responses are called for. Sometimes the summons is, “Repent!” Thus, “John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 3:1–2). Again, Peter urged the hearers whose consciences had been ripped open on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Later, Paul urged the Athenians to “repent” in response to the message of the risen Christ (Acts 17:30).

Yet, on other occasions, the appropriate response to the gospel is, “Believe!” When the Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, the Apostle told him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

But there is no mystery or contradiction here. Further on in Acts 17, we discover that precisely where the response of repentance was required, those who were converted are described as believing (Acts 17:30, 34).

Any confusion is surely resolved by the fact that when Jesus preached “the gospel of God” in Galilee, He urged His hearers, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15). Here repentance and faith belong together. They denote two aspects in conversion that are equally essential to it. Thus, either term implies the presence of the other because each reality (repentance or faith) is the sine qua non of the other.

In grammatical terms, then, the words repent and believe both function as a synecdoche—the figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. Thus, repentance implies faith and faith implies repentance. One cannot exist without the other.

But which comes first, logically? Is it repentance? Is it faith? Or does neither have an absolute priority? There has been prolonged debates in Reformed thought about this. Each of three possible answers has had advocates:

First, W. G. T. Shedd insisted that faith must precede repentance in the order of nature: “Though faith and repentance are inseparable and simultaneous, yet in the order of nature, faith precedes repentance” (Dogmatic Theology, 2.536). Shedd argued this on the grounds that the motivating power for repentance lies in faith’s grasp of the mercy of God. If repentance were to precede faith, both repentance and faith would be legal in character, and they would become prerequisites for grace.

Second, Louis Berkhof appears to have taken the reverse position:

“There is no doubt that, logically, repentance and the knowledge of sin precede the faith that yields to Christ in trusting love” (Systematic Theology, p. 492).

Third, John Murray insisted that this issue raises

an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance … saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with saving faith. (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, p. 113).

This is, surely, the more biblical perspective. We cannot separate turning from sin in repentance and coming to Christ in faith. They describe the same person in the same action, but from different perspectives. In one instance (repentance), the person is viewed in relation to sin; in the other (faith), the person is viewed in relation to the Lord Jesus. But the individual who trusts in Christ simultaneously turns away from sin. In believing he repents and in repenting believes. Perhaps R. L. Dabney expressed it best when he insisted that repentance and faith are “twin” graces (perhaps we might say “conjoined twins”).

But having said this, we have by no means said everything there is to say. Entwined within any theology of conversion lies a psychology of conversion. In any particular individual, at the level of consciousness, a sense of either repentance or trust may predominate. What is unified theologically may be diverse psychologically. Thus, an individual deeply convicted of the guilt and bondage of sin may experience turning from it (repentance) as the dominant note in his or her conversion. Others (whose experience of conviction deepens after their conversion) may have a dominant sense of the wonder of Christ’s love, with less agony of soul at the psychological level. Here the individual is more conscious of trusting in Christ than of repentance from sin. But in true conversion, neither can exist without the other.

The psychological accompaniments of conversion thus vary, sometimes depending on the dominant gospel emphasis that is set before the sinner (the sinfulness of sin or the greatness of grace). This is quite consistent with the shrewd comment of the Westminster Divines to the effect that faith (that is, the trusting response of the individual to the word of the gospel) “acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof [of Scripture] containeth” (WCF 16.2).

In no case, however, can real conversion take place apart from the presence of both repentance and faith, and therefore both joy and sorrow. A “conversion” that lacks all sorrow for sin, that receives the word with only joy, will be temporary.

Jesus’ parable of the sower is instructive here. In one type of soil, the seed sprouts quickly but dies suddenly. This represents “converts” who receive the word with joy—but with no sense of fallow ground being broken up by conviction of sin or any pain in turning from it (Mark 4:5–6, 16–17). On the other hand, a conversion that is only sorrow for sin without any joy in pardon will prove to have been only “worldly grief” that “produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10). In the end, it will come to nothing.

This, however, raises a final question: Does the necessity of repentance in conversion constitute a kind of work that detracts from the empty-handedness of faith? Does it compromise grace?

In a word, no. Sinners must always come empty-handed. But this is precisely the point. By nature, my hands are full (of sin, self, and my own “good deeds”). However, hands that are full cannot hold on to Christ in faith. Instead, as they take hold of Him, they are emptied. That which has prevented us from trusting Him falls inevitably to the ground. The old way of life cannot be retained in hands that are taking hold of the Savior.

Yes, repentance and faith are two essential elements in conversion. They constitute twin graces that can never be separated. As John Calvin well reminds us, this is true not only of the beginning but of the whole of our Christian lives. We are believing penitents and penitent believers all the way to glory.

Ten Things You Should Know about Pelagius and Pelagianism

Article by Dr. Sam Storms (original source here)

1. We know very little about Pelagius (350-425) prior to his conflict with Augustine.
Evidently he was a British monk who taught for a short time in Rome toward the close of the 4th century. He fled to North Africa in 410 (preceding the invasion of the Goths) and there engaged in his dispute with Augustine, the famous Bishop of Hippo. He later went to Palestine and then disappeared from history.

2. Pelagius was a prolific author who preferred written treatises and rebuttals to open verbal confrontation.
His writings reflect his excellent education and were characterized by clarity of thought and devotional tones throughout. They centered primarily in ethics and religious piety. The hallmark of the Pelagian literature was the insistence that all believers were morally obligated to high ethical ideals, not just the clergy.

3. He wrote several scholarly commentaries on the Pauline epistles as well as a number of letters during the course of the controversy, few of which have survived.
Included among his works are The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart, Virginity, The Law, and Faith in the Trinity (an anti-Arian treatise). His two most influential works are his De Natura and his treatise on Free Will. This latter work, which survives only in fragments today, contains four points of emphasis:

a. Men are born morally neutral with an equal capacity for either good or evil.
b. Whereas previously he spoke of divine grace as merely providing help, here he seems to assert it is necessary for salvation.
c. He finally admits that Adam’s sin did adversely affect his posterity, but only by way of setting a bad example.
d. He discusses certain texts in Paul that appear to say we are driven to sin by the corruption of our flesh, a doctrine he rejects.

4. Pelagius was first and foremost a moralist.
It is important to keep this in mind as a foundational assumption in all of Pelagius’ thinking. He was concerned above all else with right conduct. He was especially hostile to what he perceived to be the tendency of grace to grant a license for sin (cf. Rom. 5:21-6:2). Consider the following statement:

Whenever I am called upon to speak upon moral training and the course of holy living, I am accustomed first to display the power and quality of human nature and show what it is able to accomplish, and then from this to incite the mind of the hearer to (some) forms of virtue, lest it profit nothing to summon to those things which it would have thought to be impossible for it.1

5. Pelagius believed that the soul of man by creation is neither holy nor sinful.
According to Pelagius, Adam was not created holy. He was not constitutionally inclined either toward good or evil. He was morally indifferent or neutral. In this state of moral equilibrium, Adam was no more disposed to good than to evil. Pelagius argued that if Adam had possessed any moral character prior to moral action, his moral responsibility would be destroyed. Continue reading

Concerning Oneness Pentecostal Heresy

Well said, Edward Dalcour:

Recently, many troubling statements made by Dr. Michael Brown regarding Oneness theology and those who hold to it were brought to my attention. Overall, I find that Dr. Brown is misguided as to what Oneness theology actually teaches.

It seems that Dr. Brown does not realize that “one God” in Oneness theology is radically different from how Scripture (Christians) presents “one God?” Oneness believers see God as unitarian (“one person”– as with Muslims and JWs), whereas Scripture teaches that the “one” true God is multi-personal (triune). This, is a qualitative, not a semantic difference.

Further, is Dr. Brown completely unaware of the fact that the standard Oneness position denies that God the Son was incarnate? For in Oneness theology, “Jesus” as the Father preexisted, came down from heaven, and manifested a physical body called, “Son,” thus rejecting the preexistence and deity of the person of the Son.

So, when the Son says, for example, “Unless you believe that I am [the eternal One] you will die in your sins” (John 8:24), we as Christians should see Oneness doctrine as heretical and those who hold to it as the object of evangelism—for again, they reject (among other doctrines) the preexistence and deity of the Son of biblical revelation. Dr. Brown is simply wrong here in his appraisal of Oneness doctrine and those who hold to it.

Michael Brown’s words can be found here:

Not a Charismatic in 2018

Article: Why This Reformed Christian Will Not Be Charismatic In 2018 by R. Scott Clark (original source here)

Tim Challies has published a list of predictions for the “New Calvinist Movement” for 2018. It has understandably provoked discussion. He writes,

In 2018 we will begin to see wider practice of the sign gifts among those who hold to Reformed theology and this will bring some controversy. To this point the debate surrounding cessationism and continuationism has largely been theological, but it will soon become far more practical. We will see churches that are Reformed in much of their theology also practicing prophecy, inviting tongues-speaking, and founding healing ministries.

As a matter of sociology Tim is probably correct. The attempted synthesis of some few aspects (see below) of Reformed theology with Charismatic and Pentecostal theology, piety, and practice will continue. This synthesis is part of a pattern that has roots in the 19th century. On this see the essay “Magic and Noise: On Being Reformed in Sister’s America” in Always Reformed. This is (Sister) Aimee’s world and the Reformed are just living in it. It is vital to recognize this reality, however, and respond accordingly.

The first response should be to define Calvinist or Reformed correctly. One cannot hold essentially the same view of the Word and sacraments as, e.g., Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525), who was a Charismatic/Pentecostal (Ana)baptist and call one’s self a “Calvinist” or “Reformed.” The Reformed churches confess a very different view of Scripture (they are, as Tim notes) cessationist, and sacraments (they were all, every last one of them, paedobaptist) than that confessed by most of the so-called “New Calvinists” or the Young, Restless, and Reformed.

It might be better to describe this movement as Young, Restless, and Augustinian or Young, Restless, and Predestinarian, because this is what they mean by the adjective “Calvinist.” In this context, the “New Calvinists” are not invoking much else about the “Calvinist” theology, piety, and practice. They certainly are not invoking the Calvinist doctrine of sola Scriptura or the Calvinist doctrine and practice of worship. The “New Calvinists” are not animated by Calvin’s doctrine of God, man, Christ, soteriology, nor certainly by his doctrine of the church and sacraments. One need not take my word for it. Carl, Todd, and Aimee have a good discussion today of the discontinuities between the “New Calvinists” and historic Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

So why will I not become a Charismatic in 2018? As Carl, Todd, and Aimee discuss, it is not because I doubt the power of God to do today as he did during the Apostolic era. It is because I believe that he could do right now what he did then. It is because it is my Charismatic and Pentecostal friends who have defined down the divine power. None of the old-fashioned Pentecostalists are doing what the apostolic company did. Creflo Dollar needs a Gulfstream V to get about but Philip was transported by the Holy Spirit himself. God’s Word says, “the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more” (Acts 8:39; ESV). Where is Dollar’s faith? Why did he hector Grandmothers for their Social Security money when it was all about his lack of faith? God is utterly able to carry Creflo Dollar about without the use of a state-of-the-art Gulfstream jet. Yet, even Dollar needs a jet. Why? Because the Apostolic age is over. The Spirit is not transporting deacons and preachers any longer. As Carl & Co. note, Acts 5:12 says that the Apostles “regularly” did signs and wonders. They were so full of the Holy Spirit and so powerful that the people “even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:15; ESV).

This is not true of the Pentecostals and Charismatics. They hold healing services on Wednesdays and some are alleged to have been healed and others not. When that happens it is claimed that it was because the sick did not have had enough faith. This does not agree with Luke’s record of the healing ministry exercised by the Apostles. When the Apostle Paul was bit by a viper on Malta (Acts 28:1–6) none of those around him believed that he would survive but he did because he was an Apostle. If Creflo Dollar or any of the leading charismatic “New Calvinists” were bit by a viper they would need medical treatment. The Spirit used the Apostle Peter to put to death Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11).

We trust that our “New Calvinist” friends exercise church discipline but we have yet to read of any of them who has put anyone to death. Why? Because they are not Apostles. The age of Apostolic miracles is past.

The second reason I will not become a Charismatic in 2018 is because it does injury to the sole, ruling authority of God’s Word. Our charismatic friends think of themselves as people of God’s Word but every time they claim to have received a revelation apart from Scripture they marginalize God’s Word. Thus, against the sixteenth-century charismatic movements (they existed), the Reformed churches confessed (and confess today):

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils or decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men or of themselves liars, and more van than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us saying, Test the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: any one comes to you and brings not this teaching, receive him not into your house.

God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word is sufficient for Christian faith and Christian practice. We need no ongoing revelation alongside Scripture. We do not believe that there is any actual ongoing revelation alongside Scripture. This was a source of great disagreement between the (Ana)baptists and the confessional Protestants (i.e., the Lutheran and the Reformed) in the 16th century. The sixteenth-century charismatic movements boasted that they were not dependent upon what they called “the dead letter” because they were receiving fresh revelations from God. The Lutheran and Reformed churches rejected these groups as “sects” (see Belgic Confession art. 29) and fanatics.

One of the tests that I proposed in Recovering the Reformed Confession was a thought experiment in time travel. Imagine that our leading “New Calvinist” charismatics were to appear before Calvin to explain their view that God continues to give special revelation alongside holy Scripture. How do you think he would respond? We need not guess. He has already answered our question. Consider this passage from the original Calvinist:

Furthermore, those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy. For of late, certain giddy men have arisen who, with great haughtiness exalting the teaching office of the Spirit, despise all reading and laugh at the simplicity of those who, as they express it, still follow the dead and killing letter.1 But I should like to know from them what this spirit is by whose inspiration they are borne up so high that they dare despise the Scriptural doctrine as childish and mean. For if they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, such assurance is utterly ridiculous. Indeed, they will, I think, agree that the apostles of Christ and other believers of the primitive church were illumined by no other Spirit. Yet no one of them thence learned contempt for God’s Word; rather, each was imbued with greater reverence as their writings most splendidly attest. And indeed it had thus been foretold through the mouth of Isaiah. For where he says, “My Spirit which is in you, and the words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed … forever” [Isa. 59:21 p., cf. Vg.], he does not bind the ancient folk to outward doctrine as if they were learning their ABC’s; rather, he teaches that under the reign of Christ the new church will have this true and complete happiness: to be ruled no less by the voice of God than by the Spirit. Hence we conclude that by a heinous sacrilege these rascals tear apart those things which the prophet joined together with an inviolable bond. Besides this, Paul, “caught up even to the third heaven” [2 Cor. 12:2], yet did not fail to become proficient in the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, just as also he urges Timothy, a teacher of singular excellence, to give heed to reading [1 Tim. 4:13]. And worth remembering is that praise with which he adorns Scripture, that it “is useful for teaching, admonishing, and reproving in order that the servants of God may be made perfect” [2 Tim. 3:16–17]. What devilish madness is it to pretend that the use of Scripture, which leads the children of God even to the final goal, is fleeting or temporal?

Then, too, I should like them to answer me whether they have drunk of another spirit than that which the Lord promised his disciples. Even if they are completely demented, yet I do not think that they have been seized with such great dizziness as to make this boast. But in promising it, of what sort did he declare his Spirit would be? One that would speak not from himself but would suggest to and instill into their minds what he had handed on through the Word [John 16:13]. Therefore the Spirit, promised to us, has not the task of inventing new and unheard-of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine, to lead us away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel (Institutes 1.9.1).

The charismatic movement is not new. The Reformed churches rejected it in the 16th century and, as much as we may appreciate the (non-charismatic) gifts of some of those proponents of the synthesis, we continue to reject it because it necessarily compromises God’s Word. Either God’s Word is the sole, final, ruling authority for the Christian faith and life or the “still, small voice” is. Both cannot be the final authority and if Scripture is the final authority, then we need no ongoing, special revelation alongside Scripture.

In the spirit of the Synod of Dort I will combine my third and fourth points. The last reason I will not become a charismatic in 2018 is because I have been there and tried that and found it wanting biblically and practically. Long ago, when I was pastoring a small church in Kansas City, Missouri the so-called “Kansas City Prophets” movement was in full swing. In that same period I was meeting with charismatic and Pentecostal Christians for prayer. As they “spoke in tongues” (more on this below) I prayed in English. What I discovered is that these fellows were good guys who re-described everything that happened to them in Apostolic, supernatural terms. In truth they had no more Apostolic power than I did. They simply used biblical language to describe whatever happened to them.

In the same period I worked through the question biblically and theologically. I very much wanted the charismatics to be right but I did not find the Scriptures to teach what they claimed. There is no ground for distinguishing the phenomena of Acts 2 from the phenomena that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians. “Tongues of men and angels” (1 Cor 13:1) has utterly nothing to do with the practice of glossolalia. Indeed, the practice of glossolalia has nothing to do with the apostolic phenomenon of “tongues,” which was nothing more or less than the Spirit-given ability to speak in natural foreign languages. Upon close inspection, the case for ongoing charismatic non-canonical revelation alongside Scripture collapsed. B. B. Warfield was fundamentally correct. It is all special pleading. It does not stand up to close, exegetical scrutiny. It is not biblical. Glossolalia is a universal human religious phenomenon that has been re-described in biblical, apostolic terms. The revelations claimed by our friends are not any such thing. It is all just an illusion.

Brothers and sisters, Scripture is enough. The Spirit is working marvelously through it to bring dead sinners to new life. Through it he is granting them true faith and through it union with Christ. Through baptism he is marking out his visible church and putting his seal on his elect, which he will sovereignly bring to fruition in his good time. Through the Lord’s Supper he is mysteriously feeding believers on the true body and blood of Christ. He is operating secretly and powerfully in ways that you and I may never know. It is not that he is not operating. It is that we are looking for him in all the wrong places.

You don’t agree? … so what?

Repost of an older article:


Dr. Don Kistler, founder of the Northampton Press, was born in California in 1949, the second of five sons of Jack and Faye Kistler. He grew up on a dairy farm in Central California and graduated from Azusa Pacific College in Southern California in 1971 with a double major in public speaking and religion. He holds the M. Div. and D. Min. degrees, and is an ordained minister. Prior to entering the gospel ministry, Dr. Kistler coached high school and college football for over 15 years.

Dr. Kistler pastored a local church for four years. As part of his preaching and teaching ministry, he has spoken at conferences with such notable figures as Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. J. I. Packer, Dr. John Gerstner, Elisabeth Elliot, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Michael Horton, Rev. Alistair Begg, Dr. Albert M. Mohler, the late Dr. James Boice, and Rev. Eric Alexander, to name just a few.

Dr. Kistler is the author of the book A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love, and Why Read the Puritans Today? and is the editor of all the Soli Deo Gloria Puritan reprints. He was a contributing author for Justification by Faith ALONE!; Sola Scriptura; Trust and Obey: Obedience and the Christian; Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church; and Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching.

He has edited over 150 books. He currently resides in Orlando, FL.

(The following is a transcript I wrote, taken from Lecture 2 of a seminar on Jonathan Edwards by Dr. Don Kistler, at Saint Andrews Chapel, Sanford, Florida, September 2003.)

Dr. Don Kistler – “People will often say “I don’t agree with you” but what does that prove? So what?”

“Let me tell you how this was driven home to me by the late Dr. John Gerstner. I was his pastor for four years (and you think you have pressure on the job). We used to drive to a Bible Study and I’d gotten a question in the mail from someone about Sabbath breaking (someone who was a very strict Sabbatarian) and they asked if anyone who did not keep a very strict Sabbath could REALLY be a Christian (that was the essence of the question).

I always drove Dr. Gerstner in his car and so I asked him, “how would you respond to this question?” I realized, you don’t ask him questions. He asks the questions.

Dr. Gerstner said, “Lets suppose for the sake of the argument that you are a practicing Sabbath breaker and I am a practicing homosexual.” He says, “Are you going to heaven or to hell?”

I said, “I’m going to heaven.”

He said, “Am I going to heaven or to hell?”

I said, “You’re going to hell.”

He said, “So you’re violating one of God’s commands and you get to go to heaven but I am violating one of God’s commands and I have to go to hell. What is it, did I pick the wrong command, Don?”

“Well,” I said, “the scripture is not as emphatic about Sabbath breaking as it is about homosexuality. Paul calls that the lowest form of degradation that there is. The Bible never calls Sabbath breaking an abomination… errr.. how’s that?”

Gerstner responded, “How’s that?… How’s what?”

I said, “my answer.”

He said, “what answer? You fumbled around and tried to throw a few verses at me. Did you think you were going to intimidate me with a couple of verses? Now do you have an answer to my question or not?”

Panting for breath I said, “well, good and godly men have disagreed over the issue of the Sabbath, you know Calvin and Luther and your man Sproul.”

He said, “ok, Calvin and Luther and Sproul and you and me will all be in hell together. Now what is your response to my question? Why is it YOU get to go to heaven and you can violate a command of God and I can’t violate a command of God but I have to go to hell. What kind of a system are you running here?”

Well I am really sweating bullets… and so we pull up to the place we are going and I ask, “what’s the answer?”

He said, “we’ll talk about it on the way home.”

“On the way home? That’s another hour!”

Well he did this all the way home and when we got there I said, “now tell me what the answer is.”

He said, “we’ll do it next month.”

“No, we’re not doing it next month. I want to sleep between now and next month.” Continue reading